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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Third World Thinking

Science News has published the results of a new study on market economies in its March 15, 2008 issue. Economist Benedikt Herrmann of the University of Nottingham, England studied the difference between college students from 15 countries in a "public goods" game.

Students were broken up into groups of four and each were asked to contribute up to 20 tokens to a common pot. The pot total was multiplied by 1.6 and the resulting tokens distributed to the students. This was repeated 10 times, then the students were allowed to exchange their tokens for cash.

After each round, everyone's contribution was revealed. The members of each group could punish each other by paying a token to get the ability to take three tokens from some other group member.

Volunteers from democratic, market-based societies like the UK, the US, Germany, etc., uniformly punished low contributors for their lack of generosity. These low contributors would then contribute more on subsequent iterations of the game.

Volunteers from non-democratic societies such as Saudi Arabia, Greece, and Russia generally punished the high contributors for having the temerity to make the rest look bad. This led to a general drying up of contributions to the general pot.

The results of the experiment seem to have some bearing on various subpopulations in the United States. Where have we seen groups who like to tax high contributors versus groups who like to tax low contributors?

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and their confreres love to strip money from those with lots of it. Of course, they would argue that they are taxing people who don't contribute to the general good at all, and thus the comparison is really not fair. Still, it is interesting to see the parallels.

But couldn't we make the same assertion about Rush Limbaugh and company? After all, if tokens are merely representative of the amount of contribution, then why couldn't we argue that immigrants - who give their entire working lives to this country for a period of weeks, months or years - are making a larger contribution to the general public than people who merely convince others to make contributions on their behalf?

Now, one could argue that the head of a multi-billion dollar corporation is not only giving his time and money to the general public, he is also talking others into giving their time and talent, and putting part of it in his own name, as it were. Instead of simply taxing non-contributors, he is enticing non-contributors to make contributions for him by paying them to do so.

And what do we say of Rush and company when they want to strengthen immigration laws, on the grounds that Mexico's immigration laws are quite harsh, therefore ours should be as well?

They give all they have - themselves - and we punish them because it isn't enough? Isn't this identical to the kind of third-world thinking Barack Hussein Obama and Billary Clinton regularly display in the world of finance? After all, why would we want to emulate any aspect of a third-world country's laws, given that it may very well be this strict immigration policy that, at least in part, makes them a third world country?

There are several ways to argue this, depending upon which economic theory strikes your fancy and how you want to classify the contributions being made. But it is interesting that the very states with the highest tax rates - which tend to be the coastal states - are the states whose economies most closely align to the third-world worldview that Herrmann discovered.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Radio Show

Because I'm not too bright, it failed to occur to me that some people may want to listen to the weekly radio show I do.

The Soundbites program airs from noon to 1 pm every Friday on Guadalupe Radio Network, the Catholic radio station in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Although we are off the air on Good Friday, our most recent controversy involved a piece of scatalogical artwork which depicted Our Lady of Guadalupe as a stripper. It was displayed at the University of Dallas. It was also removed by an unknown gallery patron and not returned.

The president of the University of Dallas called it theft.
We called it virtue.